Claudiaexpat has interviewed Becky, an English career change coach, about her going back home after years abroad, and setting up a fulfilling job based on her whole experience overseas (and much more). Thank you Becky!
Becky, by reading your story I realise you had a very rich and varied life, and where you are today is most probably the result of lessons learned and mixing with so many different people and cultures, and going back home with a very rich baggage. What took you abroad and where did you live?
My first expat posting was Saudi Arabia. It was 1981 and I was two years into a teaching career in the UK. I’d trained to teach both native and second language learners of English because I knew I was destined to work overseas.
In 1982 my husband and I were both restless and ready for adventure. What did we know about Saudi? Precious little! But when we signed up as a teaching couple we knew enough to take with us sufficient money for a flight straight out of Jeddah if the jobs didn’t materialize.
I wasn’t just leaving a place I’d called home for that long stretch of time, but I was also saying goodbye to a 33 year marriage, a job I loved, a family home, a wide circle of friends and a very international lifestyle.
We stayed in Saudi for two years – enough to save the deposit on a house. Going back home, we settled back into the beautiful green countryside in the north of England, had two children, then started to feel restless again. We were determined to experience a different culture this time and applied for jobs in Spain and Greece. When the perfect job came up though, it was in the UAE. We set off for the 3 years in our contract and stayed for 22!
22 years!!! How has it been going back home to England and saying goodbye to a country that has welcomed you for so long?
Going back home to England after 22 years in Dubai has been surprising, refreshing, sometimes confusing and occasionally challenging! I wasn’t just leaving a place I’d called home for that long stretch of time, but I was also saying goodbye to a 33 year marriage, a job I loved, a family home, a wide circle of friends and a very international lifestyle. Having said of all that, it was my own choice, and for that reason I was ready to put 100% into making my new life work.
The leaving was pretty drawn out and when I actually took off I had feelings of relief as well as sadness. I was leaving so much behind while also embracing the changes I was planning to make. Sadly, not all of these came to fruition. I’d placed my trust in someone who let me down badly and I had to re-build my life when I was feeling very scattered and definitely bruised. The loveliest friends saw me through this dark time and after a few months I was growing into my own strength again and ready to ask: what did I want from this next phase in my life?
I love living in the southwest of England, in a small city and close to the sea. This kind landscape and Devon’s beautiful beaches have sustained me and helped me make this place home. Finding work at the university here helped me enjoy some of the international flavour I relished in Dubai – students from around the world have been a joy to work with. But after a while, I knew I had to make some changes and out of this desire to create a life that honoured who I really am, a new working life has emerged.
Tell us about it!
As a career change coach, I work with people who are restless, and who can’t understand why their work no longer fits the person they are today. Very often they will have achieved some success… BUT!
Whether the role has changed over time, the organization has evolved into not such a great cultural fit any more, or whether individual circumstances have altered, all my clients share a growing sense that they need to make some changes that will allow them to be who they really are today. They might need to adjust to a new location (as I did when I was living overseas), to family circumstances (like working part-time or re-training around children), or to accommodate how, over time, their priorities have shifted (flexibility might become more important for example).
I’ve been able to set up my business so I spend quality time with each client. I’m not interested in working with vast numbers at a shallow level, but in going deep with each client, getting to know them well and ensuring their journey is exactly what they need. Offering shorter coaching experiences as well as the full career change programme, free resources and inspiration through my blog and newsletter, ensure that I reach people at different stages in their career change journey. It’s a big decision and I know from experience that it takes time to make the leap!
I know that part of your work focuses on what you call “Freestyle 61” – could you tell us about it?
This life re-design project grew out of my career change coaching work. When I returned to the UK, settling in to a new home, a single life and a new city, I truly felt like I had a blank slate in front of me. At first I needed stability, but once I had a secure job I started to feel the attraction of building something unique. I didn’t want to sleep walk through the next phase but instead make conscious and aligned choices about the components and pattern of this life.
I love a creative challenge!
I was reading a lot about design-thinking at the time and decided to base my blueprint on its positive tenets of curiosity, experimentation and re-framing. I combined this with activating my values and purpose and developed my signature system – The Freestyle Canvas – to create a self-designed and fulfilling life. And on April 9th 2018 I set it in motion! I’m almost through the first year and have loved evolving and living the system. I’m in the process of writing up this experience as a book and hope to have an online course and associated coaching programme launching within the next year.
I’m excited by this project and how it empowers me to celebrate being 61 and looking ahead to yet more fulfillment in my life. Sometimes, we can only see the ‘problem’ under our noses, but at other times we have the chance to stand back, be imaginative and really go for it!
If not now, when?
Photo Credit ©BeckyKilsby
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